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Live Active Cultures

Seth Kubersky's best and worst of Universal Orlando's 21st annual Halloween Horror Nights

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Best Scenic Direction: The Forsaken

Ever walk the Spanish fort queue at Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean and think, “This would make a great haunted house”? The designers of this voyage through Columbus’ ill-fated fourth ship apparently did. From the awe-inspiring sails to the wickedly tilted lower decks, this maze has an eerily authentic sense of space and scale, though scares were scarce.

Trippiest Visuals: The In Between

Past haunts have used 3-D glasses with limited success, but this interdimensional expedition (via Ouija board) hits it out of the multiverse with mind-mangling colors that literally leap off the walls. Watch your alcohol intake; this crazy kaleidoscope can send even sober heads spinning.

Ickiest Interactivity: Saws N’ Steam

Last year’s popular steampunk scarezone returns as a humid shuffle through a rusty human-filleting factory. As if the exposed sinew and smashed viscera weren’t appetizing enough, you can expect to be spritzed with an array of unidentifiable fluids. Hint: Keep your mouth closed.

Nearest Miss: H.R. Bloodengutz Presents Holidays of Horror

This blackly comic twist on 4th of July, Arbor Day and other holidays boasts lots of clever detail, like the “other white meat” trussed up on the Thanksgiving table. The “humor” house is usually among my favorites each year, but I was rushed past the video loops that set up each environment, making this one a frustrating exercise in “huh?”

Biggest Disappointment: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure

Patrick Braillard and Jason Horne (PB&J Theatre Factory) are two of the funniest guys I know. But aside from some sharp political jabs, the pop-culture spoof they’ve created, taking over from longtime writer Mike Aiello, is the most toothless in years. Next year, either ignore the libel lawyers and cut the dance routines, or just retire the time-traveling phone booth for good.

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